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1958 TV Guide Article On Jolene Brand (Anna Maria Verdugo)
Originally donated by Joanne Slappo.

From TV Guide -- 4 October 1958
A Match For Zorro

Last spring a petition from a Guy Williams Fan Club in New York found its way to Vice President William H. Anderson’s desk at Disney Studios in Burbank. It contained 20 signatures and one interesting question: "Why doesn’t Zorro show a little emotion when he sees a pretty girl?"

As interpreted by Disney and ABC press agents (who last season shot advance publicity pictures of Williams in clinches with leading ladies when actually Zorro just kissed their hands on TV), the fan letter led Anderson to the conclusion that the series of which he is producer should maybe whomp up a little more adult heart appeal when it resumes Oct. 9. So it will.

The lucky lady selected to introduce ABC’s Thursday night’s audience to romance in Early California is a 23-year-old half-Spanish beauty named Jolene Brand, a native of El Pueblo de Nuestra Sonora la Reina de Los Angeles de Porciuncula (better known in the diminutive as just plain Los Angeles). Anderson signed Jolene on June 12 [or 11 the copy is fuzzy here] and put her to work five days later after testing a dozen girls for the part, six of them on film.

She will appear in nine of the first 13 Zorro episodes this fall as the spirited daughter of a San Francisco aristocrat who, as the season opens, is running the English blockade. She may be written into more scripts later, depending on a detail irrelevant to California’s struggle for independence—an option coming up shortly.

As fiery, seductive Anna Maria Verdugo, Miss Brand has a wardrobe which includes every sort of male enticement from a split skirt for riding side-saddle to a lacy pink negligee. But Anna Maria gets off on the wrong foot. She first falls for Zorro’s tepid daytime self, Don Diego, who this season, will lose his head only to the extend of holding ladies’ hands. Anna Maria and Zorro don’t get around to kissing until the third episode.

Jolene herself describes the filming of this milestone as her most nerve-wracking acting experience since, as a high school senior, she blew a line and "went utterly to pieces" at the Pasadena Playhouse while competing for a drama prize in 1952.

The five-second Zorro kiss was filmed for two hours. Disney’s camera recorded it from eight different angles on a Burbank hillside dotted with nervous writers and technicians.

"Everybody," reports the object of their anxiety, "had his own idea of how Guy and I should act. And all I could think of was that Guy is married and I’m married, too."

With the reasonable exception of Mrs. Guy Williams and Mr. George Slaughter, an NBC talent executive who has been Jolene’s husband for two years, almost anyone can be excused for envying the couple their labors—especially Guy’s.

Jolene, who stands 5 feet, 5 inches and weighs 117, has been taping around 34-24-36 since 1951 when she became Miss Baldwin Park in a local beauty contest at 16. Her name was then Jolene Bufkin (she adopted Brand in 1955).

Twice since then she has become the girl in the bathing suit in the morning paper. She was queen of the Los Angeles County Fair in 1953 and one of six finalists in the Miss Rheingold beauty contest in 1957.

Daughter of a salesman and later the stepdaughter of a Baldwin Park real estate dealer, Jolene Marie Christina spent a tomboy childhood not far from where Anna Maria got mushy with Zorro.

From the sixth grade through the first have of her sophomore year at Mt. San Antonio Junior College, she pitched softball – southpaw – for the Baldwin Park Rockettes.

Becoming queen of the fair, however, changed her life in two ways. A former Future Farmer of America, she won a lifetime pass to the fair – "You’re darn right I still use it" – and $200. With the cash she quit Mt. San Antonio, put her pitcher’s glove in mothballs and enrolled as a model.

Zorro’s 1958-59 leading lady – about a dozen beauties tried to tempt him last season but none of them got any father than four episodes – has been appearing on TV as a Queen for a Day model and in dramatic roles on shows like Whirlybirds and Official Detective.

She was first "discovered" by agent Sid Gold in the Hollywood Studio Club’s annual revue in 1956. The pounds heavier then, she played a tubby sorority pest in Bermuda shorts and a sailor hat.

She since has filmed and episode for Walter Winchell File and was seen as a murder victim in "Creature from the Unknown," a motion picture.

All of this, however, lacked the satisfaction Jolene finds in Zorro. "At last," she says, "I feel like I’m going to have some identity."

Williams, after all, is the one who wears the mask.


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